Indian PM vows to focus on agriculture

New Delhi, August 15:

Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh marked the 60th anniversary of independence today with a pledge to focus in the coming years on crisis-hit agriculture but insisted that industrialisation was critical to progress and employment.

Delivering his fourth speech from the magnificent Red Fort monument, the Indian prime minister sounded confident as he spoke in Hindi, touching upon an array of subjects but focussing on education and agriculture.

In his crisp 35-minute address, heard by millions across India and abroad, he voiced his government’s determination to cru-sh terrorism, without any reference to Pakistan, and said instead that New Delhi desired ‘the best of relations’ with all its neighbours as well as countries beyond.

He devoted much of his time on a severe crisis that has enveloped agriculture that has led to farmer suicides in thousands, promising a Rs 250 billion Indian Currency (IC) package to boost farm output. “In the coming years, our main emphasis will be on agricultural development,” he said. “We will soon launch a special programme to invest Rs 25,000 crore IC in agriculture, to enhance the livelihood of our farmers and increase food production.

“We will also focus on the needs of our farmers in dry and drought prone regions,” he said, adding food grain production was sure to get a boost when his government rolls out an ambitious agriculture development programme.

The economist-turned-politician made it clear that there were limits to how much income agriculture alone can generate, given the large population dependent on farming and the small size of farms in the country.